Dr. Hodge’s Misrepresentations Of President Finney’s System Of Theology -- By: G. Frederick Wright

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 033:130 (Apr 1876)
Article: Dr. Hodge’s Misrepresentations Of President Finney’s System Of Theology
Author: G. Frederick Wright

Dr. Hodge’s Misrepresentations Of President Finney’s System Of Theology

Rev. G. Frederick Wright

The death, on the 16th of August, 1875, at the advanced age of eighty-three, of the Rev. Charles G. Finney, removed one who had long been a conspicuous actor in some phases of what is called the New School controversy. Educated for the law, he became, soon after his conversion and till his old age, a remarkable instrument in the promotion of revivals throughout the Middle and Eastern States, and to some extent in England. He was regularly inducted into the Presbyterian ministry in 1824. The extreme Calvinism of the time and region in which he began his labors, compelled him as a practical preacher to dwell with great emphasis on the obverse side of the doctrines of divine sovereignty and election, and to give a prominence to human responsibility and the freedom of the will which has led to much misapprehension regarding his real position as a moderate Calvinist. President Finney differed from many so-called “revivalists” in this, that his preaching was pre-eminently doctrinal. His presentations of “the total, moral, voluntary depravity of unregenerate man, the necessity of a radical change of heart through the truth, by the agency of the Holy Ghost; the divinity and humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ; his vicarious atonement, equal to the wants of all mankind; the gift, divinity, and agency of the Holy Ghost; repentance, faith, justificatiod by faith, sanctification by faith,” were sharp-cut and powerful.1 “The doctrine of the justice of endless punishment, and not only its justice, but the certainty that sinners will be endlessly punished if they die in their sins, was strongly held forth. On all these points the gospel was

so presented as to give forth no uncertain sound. … The nature of the sinner’s dependence upon divine influence was explained and enforced and made prominent. Sinners were taught that, without the divine teaching and influence, it is certain, from their depraved state, that they never would be reconciled to God.”2

His sermons were far more than the vapid exhortation with which some who promote revivals have made us too familiar. Moreover, he was in the habit of preaching long sermons, His pastor and early instructor charged him “to be sure not to speak more than half an hour at a time.” But in his first ministry his “sermons generally averaged nearly or quite two hours.”3 In later years they were of more moderate length; though it is difficult to see how the fifty-one heads, given in the speci...

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